Buzzfeed being a buzzkill

Nathan Baldwin, Editor

For those who are not active on the internet or have managed to avoid the dominating online presence of Buzzfeed, here is a quick introduction to catch you up. Buzzfeed is a left leaning media company who posts celebrity news, fun and quirky quizzes, and a variety of video series from creators they manage.

Buzzfeed has been mired in controversy in recent years mostly due to their left leaning, often coined “Social Justice” content. However, that is not the controversy I wish to highlight. Today, I wish to focus on Buzzfeeds unauthorized use of other creator’s material, which they claim and present it as their own.

The use of citations or attribution is used to act as a safeguard against corruption and fake news, by providing a source for where the news outlet gathered their information and allowing the readers to verify or investigate what is being said themselves.

If the lack of citations or original sources leads large media companies to normalize unethical behavior, consequences will then follow.

Of all the places Buzzfeed steals content from, they seem to favor Reddit as is the go to place. Reddit user u/dramatic_walrus brought this debate to Reddit’s legal advice subreddit, a type of forum for discussing legal questions, when they highlighted an article published by Buzzfeed in December of 2018.

If one was to look at the Buzzfeed article titled, 23 Examples Of Penmanship Porn That Will Sexually Excite You, and compared it to the top posts on the Reddit page r/penmanshipporn they would see that they are the exact same pictures. Buzzfeed posted these pictures to their website without giving any credit to the original Reddit users who first posted the content.

However, to be fair, on many occasions Buzzfeed does indeed give Reddit some credit, albeit incorrectly citing the “subforum” and without crediting the individual creator.  Nethertheless, some argue that Buzzfeed should credit the original posters not the larger subreddit full of perhaps over a million users.

This problem also extends away from Buzzfeed’s website and over to their numerous Youtube pages. Youtuber Jaclyn Glenn gained widespread online attention when she publicly accused Buzzfeed of stealing her video which highlighted the effects of healing crystals, an accusation Buzzfeed disputed. Yet Jaclyn continued to argue that Buzzfeed stole her video point by point and even aspects such as cinematic shots and phrasing.

Senior Buzzfeed video producers, Sara and Kelly, responded to Jaclyn’s claims, arguing that the Buzzfeed video was unique from the healing crystal video Jaclyn posted with, “While your video explored the potential healing qualities of crystals, the frame and point of view of our video was inherently different. You cannot plagiarize another woman’s chronic pain experience, because every woman’s chronic pain experience is different.”

To some of you this may seem earth shattering, a large media company blatantly stealing work then arguing it was different. To others this may seem like a small issue in the grand scheme of things, which is something I would agree with, in part.

A large media company, for instance Buzzfeed who has 1,700 employees and makes approximately $165 million a year, stealing small and independent creators may not be a very large problem in the grand scheme of things.

However, to ignore a problem affecting the small underdog creators because the problem is small when so zoomed out is to ignore an issue affecting the near future where small creators are all but wiped from existence, unable to compete with the larger companies, and that the use of uncited sources can become rampant.

This will only lead to widespread news becoming even more devising, more propaganda like, and perhaps in the long run may begin the slide down the slippery slope into a reality similar to the one that George Orwell imaged so long ago.